Allergies- how do they happen

Every couple of months or so the "Aller-gics" will come to visit me. A sneezing orchestra announces their arrival. Mom, with red puffy eyes holds a box of tissue paper for everybody. Little Boy, who can't stop sneezing, has Itchydog on a leash. Little Girl with Skinhead the cat can't help scratching the red lines on her legs. Mom is allergic to the cat and keeps away from him. The cat is allergic to the food. The dog is allergic to who knows what. Little Boy has hay fever and is on antihistamines. Little Girl's problem: The flea-infested stray cat near her school that she feeds.

Did I forget to mention that each time I see them they are not in the best of moods?

The humans are under the good care of the family physician (who I am sure is always happy to see them!) As a matter of fact, that's where they are going next. But what about the animals? They are my problem!

Skinhead has no hair left on his head and face. His tummy is progressing in the same direction. He has been on a special "allergy diet" for a month, but occasionally he gets into the dog food.  Itchydog howls, yelps and scratches all the time. He keeps everybody up all night and also has this constant licking and foot chewing habit.  Itchydog is having his allergy test today. Hopefully we will be able to find out which fifty things he is allergic to and start managing the problem....

What are allergies and why are they so common?      

Allergy is an abnormal, exaggerated response of the immune system to certain materials. In most cases the reaction is classified as immediate hypersensitivity. It is mediated by a category of antibodies called Immunoglobulins E (IgE). The antibodies adhere to the substance the body is sensitive to (allergen) and then to special immune cells containing granules (mast cells and others). The granules, which contain histamine and other substances, are released into the tissue and cause a chain of events, leading to the symptoms of allergic reaction.

Allergies are correlated to hereditary predisposition and tendency to have large number of IgE. They may develop, however, in any individual at any time. Allergies can affect tissues locally or involve multiple sites. Typically we see involvement of the respiratory mucus membranes, skin and intestines. Signs may include intense itch, swelling, redness, abundant clear discharge, sneezing, wheezing, coughing and diarrhea in the case of intestinal reaction.

Clinically, allergies are classified as atopy (inhalant), asthma, food allergy, inflammatory bowel disease, eosinophilic skin disease and more. Allergies are treated with medications, immunomodulation, hyposensitization and most of all. by avoiding exposure to the allergens.

These are serious and complex diseases that require veterinary expertise and long-term management. Left untreated, they tend to persist and worsen with time. Secondary bacterial and yeast infections are very common.

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